Restaurateur plans to expand diners' options


POSTED: Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Hawaii celebrity chef and restaurateur D.K. Kodama and his partners will open The Counter, a build-your-own burger joint, in Kahala Mall on Monday - but that is not the only new restaurant he is working on.




On the Net:

        » www.thecounterburger.com/kahala

» www.dkrestaurants.com


Cane & Taro is currently set to open in Kaanapali, Maui, in June, in the space Rusty Harpoon vacated for its move. More on that exclusive tid-bit in a moment.

It is relatively uncommon for an independent, multiconcept restaurant operator to become a franchisee for somebody else's concept.

“;I never really thought about it,”; he said.

That Kodama is an established, successful restaurateur means the Hawaii's Counters can offer something its mainland sister stores do not - a loco moco.

The company told him, “; 'You can do anything.' For a franchise to come and say that, that's kind of cool,”; Kodama said.

“;We've got the burgers,”; and eggs are already an add-on choice. Burgers-in-a-bowl are also an option, so all that's needed is the rice and gravy.

“;We're testing it, gonna make sure it's not just the regular brown gravy.”;

Demiglace will be a component, but it will have other ingredients to make it more economical.

Diners will be able to add all manner of toppings to their loco mocos, burgers and other dishes and can print an online order form to fax in advance when the restaurant opens and its local Web site goes live.

“;Lost”; actor “;Daniel Dae Kim and myself are investors”; which lends the star factor for publicity, but “;it had to be a product we could believe in,”; Kodama said.

Co-owners Ed Robles and Pablo Buckingham, general manager and operations manager, respectively, will run it.

They have committed to opening three The Counters in Hawaii “;and if we don't do it, then someone else gets the franchise agreement.”;

Opening in a recession is “;scary, like any restaurant, it's a gamble, so we hope and pray that people are going to come in our doors every day.”;

Now for more on that exclusive morsel.

Cane & Taro will be a breakfast, lunch and dinner restaurant.

Its name evokes Hawaii's agrarian roots - no pun intended - the sugarcane plantations where workers of differing ethnicities gained appreciation and fondness for foods of others' cultures - and the taro Hawaiians revere as sacred.

Cane & Taro will be Kodama's third Maui restaurant - part Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar, part d.k Steak House, “;and we have some things from like,”; his voice trailed off, giving way to his desire to keep the details under wraps.


Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Reach her by e-mail at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).